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Czech Republic: Neoliberals win the presidential "elections."

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On Friday, February 15th, V·clav Klaus was elected to his second

presidential term in the second vote after six rounds of voting by both chambers of the Czech Parliament.

Klaus is the long-term leader of the biggest Czech right wing party ODS (Civic Democratic Party) and one of the architects of the restoration of capitalism - the big voucher privatisation robbery. He is now "famous" worldwide as one of the last politicians denying that climate change is caused by human activity. With his "Euro-scepticism" and rejection of the Euro he can find probably find co-thinkers only amongst the British Tories - and even there, these days, there is probably no more outspoken admirer of Margaret Thatcher than Klaus.

By contrast his main opponent, Jan ävejnar, standing as a candidate of the Green Party and Social Democrats (CSSD), is strongly in favour of the neo-liberal European project. This economics lecturer at the University of Michigan and chairman of the board of directors of one of the biggest Czech banks also contributed his bit to the restoration of capitalism. Both Klaus and ävejnar warmly support the building of a US military base In the Czech Republic as part of the National Missile Defence system, the successor to Reagan's Star Wars project.

Shameful indeed was the role of both reformist parties - the social democrats (CSSD) and the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM), Both voted for ävejnar, although the KSCM claimed it was not actually "supporting" him by its vote (sic!). The CSSD supported Svejnar from the start: its only aim was to sow discontent into the governing ODS by getting rid of Klaus. This completely unprincipled attempt failed of course with yet another CSSD MP deserting them instead.

The "Communist" Party didn't stand a working class candidate either. In the first vote a week ago the KSCM in the first two rounds voted for ävejnar, only abstaining in the third round. Before the second vote they presented its "own" candidate, a right wing "independent" European MP Jana Bobosikova, an ex-ODS member. Their reasoning was that "a left wing candidate would have no chance". However she stepped down before the second vote started, confirming with it that KSCM just wanted to have a better position in their horse-trading, exchanging support for Svejnar for "more respect" - from the right wing.

The whole presidential vote became quite heated with several legislators receiving death threats and letters with bullets. Quite justified accusations of corruption from all sides are becoming a tradition, after this time already the third social democratic MP switched sides and left the party.

Foreign media described the whole election as important because the Czech president "has little powers but traditionally great moral authority". Both claims are nonsense. The powers are obviously not as big as in presidential republics like France and even more so the USA, but he can - completely unaccountably - appoint judges, influence the monetary policies with appointing members of the board of the Czech central bank, give amnesty to convicted criminals etc. Thus the position is not powerful but could in a social crisis, where parliament could not produce a majority government, the presidency could become the axis for a regime standing above the normal parliamentary procedures (bonapartism).

Our organisation's historic position is to call for the abolition of the presidential office, this remnant of monarchy. As well as the Senate, the upper chamber of the parliament, the president is for capitalists an insurance against the change of the mood of the masses. All their powers should be handed over to a unicameral parliament, whose deputies should be elected for short terms and be recallable by their electors. Within capitalism only such a system could make any serious claim to reflect the will of the people. In fact, given the economic and cultural power of the capitalists and their media the only substantive "rule of the people" would be the rule of the working class via workers councils.

It is a shame of the whole Czech left - not speaking about the disgraceful role played by the reformists in the parliament - that it has not used this issue to provoke a debate about democracy under capitalism and what it could be replaced with. Even worse - if anything, it supported evener as the "less arrogant" of both evils.

And most of the left have in its impotence joined parts of the liberal right with calls for a direct election of the president, with possible strengthening of his/her powers. And it looks like that the majority of the population agrees with this - at least the first part of this proposal. No wonder, we fully understand their desire to do what we are most of the time under capitalism they are deprived of - i.e. to decide. That's understandable. But it would further legitimise the bonapartist powers of presidency.

So again - we call for abolition of the presidential office and handing over of its powers to the parliament. At the same time we need to use the potential sparked by such an issue to open a broader debate about bourgeois democracy, leading to a Constituent assembly which could freely and sovereignly discuss the question who should have the power to decide.